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Uzbek holding the grenade, and into the depths of the
forest, eastward. It was not so bad hobbling on the soft
snow, but as soon as his foot touched the wind-hardened,
ice-covered, humped surface of the road, the pain became
so excruciating that he dared not take another step and
halted. He stood, his feet awkwardly apart, his body
swaying as if blown about by the wind. Suddenly a grey
mist rose before his eyes. The road, the pine-trees, the
greyish pine tops and the blue, oblong patch of sky be-
tween them vanished-----He was in his airfield, by a
fighter, his fighter, and his mechanic, lanky Yura, his
teeth and eyes, as always, glistening on his unshaven and
ever smutty face, was beckoning him to the cockpit, as
much as to say: "She's ready, off you go! ..." Alexei took
a step towards the plane, but the ground swayed, his feet
burned as if he had stepped upon a red-hot metal plate.
He tried to skip across this fiery path of ground on to
the wing of his plane, but collided with the cold side of
the fuselage. He was surprised to find that the side of the
fuselage was not smooth and polished but rough, as if
lined with pine bark-----But there was no fighter; he was
standing on the road, stroking the trunk of a tree.
"Hallucinations? I am going out of my mind from the
concussion!" thought Alexei. "It will be torture, going by
this road. Should I turn off? But that will make the going
slower... .'* He sat down on the snow and with the same
short, resolute wrenches pulled off his fur boots, tore
open the uppers with his teeth and finger-nails to make
them easier for his fractured feet, took off his large, fluffy
angora woollen scarf, tore it into strips, which he wound
round his feet, and put his boots on again.
It was easier to walk now. But it is not quite correct
to say walk: not walk, but move forward, move forward
carefully, stepping on his heels and raising his feet high,
as one walks across a bog. After every few steps his head
swam from pain and exertion. He was obliged to halt,
shut his eyes, lean against the trunk of a tree, or sit
down on a snow hummock to rest, conscious of the acute
throbbing of the blood in his veins.
And so he pushed on for several hours. But when he
turned to look back, he could still see at the end of the
forest cutting the sunlit turn of the road where the dead